Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Turkey Story

I've been telling this story for maybe ten years, now, but it's not mine: I stole it from my chef ex (not my ex-chef, which makes it sound as if I was living la vida Oprah). He somehow ended up with all our couple friends, in the aftermath; I got the t.v. and the VCR, which probably surprises no one. I'm taking this hard feelings, Ex. Happy Thanksgiving, wherever you be.

Any PETA members might want to just go watch the Macy's parade or something right now...fair warning. I'm sorry.

When Ex was just a wee lad, his parents were going through that back-to-nature, wheat-germ-on-the-cereal, live-off-the-land phase, as you did in the 70s, and they decided one Thanksgiving to procure and butcher their own live turkey. Papa Ex obtained the bird from a purveyor of such, brought it home in a big cardboard box that had once contained a television or other big appliance, and set the box in the back yard, the day before the holiday.

Thanksgiving morning, or maybe sooner, the Ex clan must have come to the realization that they had neither chopping block nor hatchet. Undeterred, Papa Ex devised a plan: he would use a large Bowie knife to cut a hole into the side of the box. When the turkey's innate pea-brained curiosity led him to stick his head out the hole, Papa Ex would decapitate him with the selfsame knife, and any death throes would be handily contained.

Mama Ex and little Kindergarten Ex were brought forth to witness the edifying departure of the main course. Cue Elton John, Cirrrrrcle of Liiiiiife. As planned, Papa carved out a turkey porthole, and as expected, the turkey's noggin emerged for a look-see and was swiftly dispatched.

At which point--no doubt greatly surprised at this turn of events--the remaining corpus of Mr. Turkey lurched bolt-upright inside the box.

At which point the bottom of the box, thoroughly saturated with 24 hours' worth of turkey poops, gave way in a dissolving mush, and the absent-of-head but highly agitated Mr. Turkey set off at the proverbial trot.

At which point the family dachshund completely lost his mind. Generations of hard-coded hunting instinct spurred Willie into a frenzy, and he lit out after the turkey. They circled the back yard at a weaving sprint, Mr. Turkey still emitting copious gouts of blood from where his head had been, and Willie gnashing and snarling and trying to leap on the turkey's back.

If memory serves, the story was that when turkey and weiner dog were at last parted, the Ex clan were still unaware that dunking a fowl in boiling water eases defeathering. So they dry-plucked it, with the expectedly grisly results. I believe dinner was served around 11 p.m., and that Mr. Turkey proved rather gamy and tough.

I'm not sure whether this Hieronymous Bosch holiday tableau ultimately influenced Ex in his career path. I can say that in his restaurant days he could hack up an entire goat on the chopping block without batting an eye, but that when he once needed four stitches in his thumb he fainted and had to be caught by a nurse; make of that what you will.

At any rate, tomorrow, Sis is handling our turkey, who arrived already dead--the least of our things to be grateful for. I am bringing the Green Bean Casserole, as required by federal law. We intend to observe the day by our own strict guidelines: gluttony, followed by moaning on the living room floor with our respective top buttons undone. Then, a postprandial cutthroat game of Scrabble, concluding with the traditional kicking over of the board in a hypercompetitive tantrum. Finally, pie.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, Interweb friends!

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